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Parish magnet school hires teachers, staff

RIDGECREST — They are the few, the proud — they are the seven teachers and two administrative staff that were selected to start molding young minds in August at Concordia Parish’s Magnet program.

The school district received more than 25 applications from teachers, both local and in-state, to teach at the math, science and technology focused program.

But after two days of interviewing all the candidates last week, the school board approved the final list of teachers and staff Thursday evening at a special board meeting.

The magnet program, which will educate kindergarten to fifth-grade students that are chosen by a lottery system, will be housed in the Ridgecrest School building, which was officially closed Thursday after 44 years.

Three of Ridgecrest’s dozen teachers were of the seven selected to be teachers in the new magnet program.

Bridget Seals, who previously taught third grade, will continue teaching third grade or possibly switch to second grade in the magnet program.

A former student of Ridgecrest herself, Seals said she was excited to have been chosen to continue teaching in the same building — even if it’s a different program.

“It was very emotional when they called us in and told us,” Seals said. “I’m very excited and looking forward to getting a decent night’s sleep tonight.

“I’ve been losing a lot of sleep over where I would end up.”

Teachers and students who were not selected for the magnet program will be sent to Vidalia, Ferriday or Monterey schools.

And while the students will be chosen at random through a lottery system, teachers had to apply, interview and compete for the positions — something Amber Nugent said was very stressful.

“I was crying the whole time when they told me,” Nugent said. “But now that it’s done, I’m anxious to see what we’re actually going to be doing.”

Nugent, another former Ridgecrest student, will continue teaching fifth grade, but said she might also end up teaching fourth graders.

Former kindergarten teacher Kate Neal will make the most drastic change of the three teachers, as she transitions to teaching fourth graders.

“I don’t think it’s going to be that tough,” Neal said. “I taught fourth grade before kindergarten, so it won’t be a problem.

“I’m just excited to get started.”

The program will offer specialized courses and does not rely on school district lines, but rather can draw students from the entire parish.

Former Ridgecrest Principal and new director of the magnet program Nancy Anders said she was thrilled with the faculty that was chosen.

“I think we have an awesome and dynamic group of teachers and staff,” Anders said. “We were really looking for people who were technologically advanced, but also people with a lot of personality and energy.

“I think we picked the perfect group.”

Two of the seven teachers are also from Concordia Parish schools, while the remaining two are from Leesville and Trout, La.

One administrative staff member is from Ridgecrest school and the technology coordinator is from Ferriday.

With a strong emphasis on technology and specialized courses, Anders said the program will bring a digital format style of learning to the students.

“In the next few weeks, we’ll sit down and start forming our curriculum and figure out which classes will get what devices,” Anders said. “Obviously, the science classes would need something more interactive than a math class for example.”

The ability to stay ahead of the curve and teach students with a variety of digital methods was one of the main things that attracted Nugent to the program.

“I’m really looking forward to not having worksheets anymore,” Nugent said laughing. “But I’m also very excited to start teaching with the new technology.”

Director of Academic Programs Paul Nelson said he was glad to see such a strong response of teacher applications and looks forward to moving forward with the program.

“When we get to this point that we now have a strong faculty in place, we can really start to get this thing going,” Nelson said. “There’s still plenty of work to do, but this was a big step.”

The deadline for submitting a student application to the magnet program is June 11.

Nelson and Anders said they hope to send out letters of acceptance by June 15.